In the wake of the deadly alt-right demonstrations in Charlottesville, replete with explicit racist, antisemitic, Nazi-era imagery and chants, it’s been widely noted that Donald Trump has refused to specifically condemn the alt-right, Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, white nationalist movement that triggered the violence, nor to explicitly note the apparently dedicated alt-right beliefs of the driver who murdered one and injured many by plowing his car into a crowd of persons protesting against these groups.
That Trump has been reluctant so far to condemn these hate groups and their members, who insist that they’re doing what Trump wants them to do, and who are such a major portion of his voting base, is not at all surprising. Perhaps in coming days he’ll feel the political need to say something more direct — but we know he’ll only do so under extreme duress.
Part of his original insipid, blame everybody on “many sides” attempts at creating false equivalence between these genuine and wannabe Nazis — vis-a-vis the protesters against them — was the all too familiar call for us to “come together as one.” But what does that really mean?
We can apply Spock-like logic to this one.
Fundamentally, we have two sides in this conflict. One side is blatantly and proudly racist, sexist, and antisemitic, spouting the same hate that their forebearers have been spewing since before the Civil War.
The other side is opposed to these hateful paradigms.
Despite what Trump seems to imply and fervently wish, there is no moral equivalency between these two diametrically opposed attitudes. Especially in the wake of WWII — largely fought against exactly these kinds of hateful ideologies under discussion here — we’ve worked very hard to keep the Neo-Nazis and their ilk compartmented and isolated, away from the mainstream of civilized society. And until fairly recently, we were pretty successful at this.
The rise of the Internet, social media, and the income streams flowing from Net-based advertising changed this dynamic, and the election of Donald Trump was seen by these groups as a green light to go mainstream again.
They have grossly miscalculated. Major Internet firms are now pushing back on their lying, hateful propaganda in a variety of ways — see: “Google Has the Alt-Right Running Scared” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/08/12/google-has-the-alt-right-running-scared).
And the “coming together” pleas are being widely recognized as the illogical and banal babblings that they are.
Because — let’s face it — exactly who is going to come together? And how?
Are the alt-right racists and antisemites going to give up generations of Confederacy-inspired dogma? Are the rest of us supposed to accept their hateful view of the world? Or are we urged to somehow “compromise” — perhaps we move 50% toward accepting their hate, while they move 50% away from their hateful ideologies?
They’re not going to join us. And we’re most certainly not going to join them — no compromise is possible with such evil.
The only practical and ethical path forward is to push that evil back into its corner where it used to be, by condemning attempts at false equivalence and cutting off their ability to leverage our technological platforms to finance and spread their wickedness.
To the extent that their speech is not inciting violence (though all too often it does exactly that) they have a First Amendment right to spout their filth free of government interference — but the rest of us are not required to countenance their malevolence in our social media or search ecosystems.
When vampires suggest to you that “we come together” it’s pretty clear where you’re going to end up if you accept their recommendation.
It’s the same with the alt-right, their cohorts, and anyone who supports or tolerates them.
Our job now isn’t to come together with such evil — it’s to drive a stake through the heart of their newfound mainstream acceptability, and to fully take back our great country from their spreading malignancy.
There’s an old saying that it’s often difficult to “see the forest for the trees” — meaning that the details can obscure our ability to understand the overall aspects of a situation. But this past week, we’ve had an unusual opportunity to get an “overhead” view of the racist, sexist, antisemitic alt-right in operation, and the patterns that have emerged are of significant interest.
In particular, fired Googler James Damore’s rapid embrace of the alt-right, and their reciprocal embrace of him as their “useful idiot” of the moment, are extremely telling, especially the latter’s public targeting of individual Google employees (please see: “Google Employees Are Being Targeted by Alt-Right Racists” – https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/08/10/google-employees-are-being-targeted-by-alt-right-racists).
If you mainly frequent “mainstream” media, I don’t blame you if you’re not aware of this twisted new romance and its direct ties to the pro-Trump media machine, all well documented in this excellent article.
After all, exploring the sordid swamps of alt-right websites is not everyone’s cup of tea.
But if you take the time to do so (I recommend not doing this after a meal, by the way) it quickly becomes obvious why wannabe Nazis (and the genuine Nazis, for that matter) have so quickly elevated Damore to alt-right hero status, already weaving his interviews — that he gleefully provided to alt-right superstars — into their propaganda writings and videos, with a full-bore attack against Google.
It’s all about the money.
For most of their existence, the major search and social media firms have generally treated the vast majority of content as being pretty much equivalent in terms of their appropriateness, a laissez–faire approach as it were, with the exception of clearly illegal materials.
But especially in the wake of Trump’s election, it has become clear that the essentially egalitarian nature of related ad network systems in particular have provided a massive funding stream to the worst of the alt-right hate sites and their affiliated fake news and propaganda operations, which — under the influence of their Russian masters — played a major role in electing the vile, lying sociopath now (occasionally, when he’s not playing golf) in the Oval Office.
Recently, the major firms like Google, Facebook, and others have taken steps that many of us have long recommended, and have begun more rigorously enforcing their existing Terms of Service (TOS) to reign in hate speech content that has been suckling on their ad money teats for far too long. These firms are free to determine what is or is not suitable for their platforms. The First Amendment — frequently touted by the hate groups — only applies to government actions related to speech.
Fact-checking systems are being deployed by Google and Facebook. Google has taken steps to eliminate monetization of various hate-related materials, especially in the case of YouTube videos. Google’s YouTube is also taking actions to prevent many hate and associated videos from appearing in “suggested video” listings, further limiting the reach of this vile content.
While it could be argued (and in fact I have argued) that much of this material should be removed from these platforms entirely under TOS rules, the paradigms of preventing the monetization of hate speech, and limiting its ability to surface for unsuspecting users who never asked to see it, appear to be useful approaches.
And if you visit the alt-right swamp sites, you’ll quickly see the panic ensuing over the realization that their income flows from the mainstream ad systems and ad networks are at serious risk.
Which brings us back to James Damore, who seems (likely unknowingly) to be playing a 2017 version of the unenviable role “Fool King for a Day” from the classic 1973 film “The Wicker Man.”
The alt-right doesn’t actually care about Damore of course. They see him as an easily disposable figurehead. He’s someone that they can use to amplify their ranting displeasure with Google’s finally taking reasonable actions to reign in the monetization of alt-right hate, lies, and other bile. He’s someone to carry high on a paper mache throne as they march on Google offices in a desperate attempt to regain their previous ability to leverage these platforms for their hate, lies, and other evils.
Some in the alt-right have already accurately concluded that their efforts in these regards will very likely fail, so they’re calling for their hate-brethren to create their own search and social media ecosystems — all hate all the time, as it were. Some such systems are already operational. To assist with their site branding, I’ll note that a serviceable Swastika is available as Unicode character U+534D (you might want to flip it over to match Third Reich standards, but that’s up to you).
I approve of such “all the rotten apples in a few barrels” approaches.
I do not call for government censorship of their evil rants. If they wish to use their own systems for their vile propaganda, and solicit funds from like-minded creatures of the night, I have no objection, so long as the flow of click income from unsuspecting, ethical folks visiting mainstream sites has been eliminated.
Once you get above the treetops, the shape of the forest can be fairly straightforward to discern, and so it is with the war between the alt-right and Google.
Keep up the good work Google. We’re proud of you.
In a post earlier today — Reactions to My Own “Google Manifesto” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/08/10/reactions-to-my-own-google-manifesto) — I noted the level of moronic, racist, antisemitic, and other alt-right bile that I’ve received in response to Here’s My Own Damned “Google Manifesto” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/08/09/heres-my-own-damned-google-manifesto), which was posted a day earlier.
Now I’m hearing from Googlers — Google employees, some of whom I’ve known for years — who feel physically threatened by the escalating situation triggered by the sexist proclamations of now fired Googler James Damore, who has allied himself with alt-right racists, and apparently is now comparing the well-paid, perk-rich jobs at Google with Soviet-era forced labor (at least if we judge from the newly featured “Goolag” t-shirt on what appears to be his new Twitter account — which is currently unconfirmed).
But it’s not this twisted clown that is of primary concern. Alt-right superstars are latching onto these circumstances in ways that threaten actual physical violence — which is of course in keeping with their Nazi heritage.
Individual Googlers who argued against Damore’s sexist manifesto — their identities made public when internal Google discussions were leaked — are being targeted by alt-right superstars and others in the alt-right ecosystem — in postings that have enormous readerships. Plans for potentially violent marches on Google offices have also been announced.
Back when I was consulting to Google several years ago, I never would have imagined that leaking of this sort or magnitude would ever take place, particularly leaks that could foreseeably trigger physical violence of the worst sort.
This is an intolerable state of affairs.
That we’ve reached this dangerous juncture is a direct consequence of normalizing racist, antisemitic, sexist hate groups thanks to the tacit support of Donald Trump and his white supremacist cronies.
And the tech industry overall bears responsibility as well. As a group we were far too slow to recognize that the racist and otherwise lying hate spew of “fake news” and false rhetoric — pouring forth from the “new” alt-right and traditional white supremacist groups — cannot safely be permitted to monetize or otherwise leverage our search and social media platforms to spread their filth.
For many years I’ve been battling against the prevalent attitude in tech that our job is just to build the systems and let the content fall where it may — “all content created equal” as it were.
All content is not equal. And by handing these groups our giant megaphones of servers, switches, and bandwidth, we are complicit in the monstrousness that has now been unleashed — not just here in the USA, but around the world.
We helped to release this evil genie from his bottle. As extraordinarily difficult as the task will be, it’s our responsibility to stuff him back inside.